Saturday, August 24, 2013

covenant freedom

our arboretum engagement photo-shoot ~ Autumn 2012
The first lesson to be learned and
practiced is loving patience. It requires
some time to bring any two lives into
perfect unison so that they shall
blend in every chord and tone.
—J. R. Miller

There are no measuring sticks, cookie-cutters, or manuals for the first year of a tender and young marital love. There is only the uprooting of two lives and the transplanting of them into deeper soil, where they have only the soft tendrils of each other's arms to lean upon. 

Days pass when both shall dance with a mutual resonance of honesty; then, days when both feel estranged to one another. There enters new fears, fresh with the reality of two individuals so boldly and starkly unlike each other. Then, the burdens and the misfortunes come to pay a visit, or, perhaps, a long holiday. The strife of financial matters, external or internal trials, grievances of one's health, the loss of something or someone outside the marriage, the disappointments of a dream or ambition placed on hold, the failures and inadequacies brought upon by the limits of both individuals. Monotony of ordinary life, thrills of blessings, and discouragements of reality are all threads that form their days.

It is the shimmering brilliance and fading valor of our humanity tasted afresh; the pains and joys are felt ever more as real in the shallow pool of two lives birthed into one. 

It is very true to say that both shall feel as child-like as ever in the first years; nothing will require more learning, observing, listening, and practicing than the blending lives of the Groom and his Bride.

There are no demands to conform to anything except to the heart and mind of Christ.

There are no carefully mapped-out results to be reached within the span of the first years, except the result of a deeper affection and trust for one another.

There are no obligations to be as others are, to settle where the expectations and wishes of others meet, except to naturally blossom into their true selves, to settle where they can mutually thrive.

 It is the voice of the Holy Spirit and the wisdom of trusted counselors that must find precedence; yet, it is also the trusted submission of husband and wife to each other, who, in the end, make the decision, the steps. 

A new life is woven upon entering a Spirit-breathed covenant.  A shedding in the leaving, a freedom in the cleaving. 

Safety, protection, mutual submission, trust, and devotion come ever-slowly to the surface when both man and wife intentionally cleave to one another even when the edges of their frames puncture into one another. The brute honesty of their thoughts and emotions will uncomfortably penetrate the very fabric of the being they vowed to love and treasure as their own flesh. Many times it will not be done with the gentleness, the patience, the graciousness of manner that they declared they would do it in. Apologies will seem insufferable to deliver at times. Yet, the pressing together of their two lives will bleed sweetly as they continue to yield to each other. It is for them to know the the fathoms of this unearthly thing called grace; unmerited favor on our best days, on our worst days.

Marriage is no prison or hindrance to becoming our true selves. It is the fertile ground, the garden, in which our true selves will one day taste the sweetest fruition. And it takes time, patience, endurance. Grievances, differences, trials, blissful blessings and all. The embracing of all bitter and bright delivers the truest of loves. Covenant Love.

Through marriage, "a person is given the opportunity of opening like a flower and becoming perfectly natural, perfectly himself. And yet this true self of his turns out, surprisingly, to be someone he himself has never met before, someone just mysteriously different enough from the real self he thought he was that it can only be described, finally, as someone entirely new. Or someone who has been there all along, perhaps, but who has finally become self-confident enough, through the grace of love, to step out of the shadows. For that is what love does: It brings people out into the light, no matter how painful that transition might prove to be. 
Love aims at revelation, at a clarifying and defining of our true natures. It is a sort of sharpening process, a paring away of dull and lifeless exteriors so that the keen new edge of a person's true self can begin to flash and gleam in the light of day..."
"A diamond cannot be cut with a tin saw, and neither can a hawk fly with a butterfly. A person, to grow keen and shining and real, needs love, which is to say, needs another person: "As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another" (Proverbs 27:17). And sharpening is a painful process: Extract the pain from love, and there is nothing left."

 {Mike Mason}

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Of time and the burdens of internet social media {a confession}

It is no secret that, for the past several years, I have intensely wrestled with the various social networking websites and, well, internet in general. In the summer of 2010, I took a sabbatical trip to Colorado for 11 weeks. The focus was a Bible school in Windsor. I never felt so free, so revived in those 11 weeks that I gave up internet and focused in on living. I mean, really living. It was satisfying. Upon returning home, I was quite vexed over whether or not I should keep my Facebook account. The final decision I made was to delete my old account and create a new one, just building on a new palate. I have so many friends and connections on there that are too valuable to eradicate from my life. I had to consider the fact that some of them were families and contacts that are more easily able to connect via Facebook then phone calls and e-mails. Life gets busy; Facebook is really a genius way to conveniently keep in touch with others.

 So, I sat down and weighed the pros and cons in my mind....

~ Immediate connection with friends and family near and far. Receiving their daily updates and photos.
~ Easy and quick way to share images, links, invitations, and ideas with a friend or multiple people.
~ A fabulous way to follow a favorite artist, photographer, ministry, company, health pages, and the list is never-ending.
~ You can promote your home-business, hobbies, goals, etc.
~ Connect with people in your field of work or interest.
~ Community games and groups. 

~Spending too much time on there. 
~Too much sensory and information. Overwhelming. Our minds were not designed to take in that much information and continue to function normally.
~Facebook collects all your info including all web browsing whether you are logged into the website or not. They save this info into a database which they sell to advertisers and give freely to government authorities, who can request it from Facebook even without your knowledge. You consent to this by agreeing to the Terms of Service. This isn't a conspiracy theory. Facebook freely admits these breaches of privacy.
~ Friends using FB as a dumping ground for very personal things, inappropriate images or links shared by them, and generally not very edifying or encouraging posts. (pro: You could either just be very selective with who you add as friends, whether they are offended or not {con: possible drama, spoken or unspoken. haha!}. Or, you can just edit the settings so you don't receive their status updates.)

But, this was my miserable little cherry on top:

I am an awfully undisciplined person, easily distracted, not always very attentive to the time. Facebook has been a tremendous time-waster for me. This is my shameful confession.


As it is with most things in life, moderation is the key. It is not that Facebook (Pinterest, Instagram, Blogger, Twitter, or any popular website for that matter) is all terrible, or all good. It is useful, but it is also a danger. Unfortunately, for our society, I predict this will come at a great cost. Relationships, communication, the art of conversation, and life as we know has slowly changed with the internet frontier, and will continue to transform. For a text-talking, hash-tagging generation, things are just about to get worse in regards to the formation of our society. Sadly, there is no such things as curbing humanity's drive for excess.

Personally, I have tried to re-focus myself by taking one to two weeks breaks from Facebook every few months. I minimized the amount of updates and information showing up in my newsfeed by un-liking pages that I didn't want to follow anymore, adjusting settings on friends and pages so that I only receive certain updates from them, and eliminating people on my friends list who I never talk to or who do not even log onto their page much anymore.

 But, I fail.
 No amount of self-willed organization, discipline, and elimination keeps from spending more time than I ought on there. This is my real struggle. Unless I find myself in a busy season of life and needing to spend less time on there, somehow I always find myself wandering back. It has made me think seriously about my time. Pick up any biography before or around the early 1900s and you will, most likely, find an accomplished person. Ordinary people like ourselves, but with less distractions and frivolities. Adolescence as we now know it was "invented" around 1900 in the midst of the industrial revolution. The term, teenager, arose in the middle 1900s, and the definition quickly became one who had much leisure time, wasting time and money on various activities. I think, in many subtle ways, these changes were just setting up for the introduction of the internet and smart-phones. In various ways, we are all, directly and indirectly, influenced by these historical changes and inventions and there is no going back. There is no returning to days of yore. But I wonder, aspire, and hope that the accomplishments of old-fashioned youth haven't vanished completely and, for all of us influenced by the modern lifestyle, it is still possible that we could be as well-learned, well-read, well-spoken, and well-practiced individuals. And, just as in the olden days, one didn't have to pursue a PhD to get there. Well-rounded learning, accomplishments, and personal growth was the normal life.

Could it still be?

I am not going to be so bold as to say that the olden days were better and that we must all return to them (but, I must confess, I think that way often. I suffer from "the-grass-is-greener-on-the-other-side"-syndrome). Nevertheless, there is something to be learned in history and the value of remembering and bringing wisdom from our past into the present. Although, it must be done with the consideration of the clearly obvious changes that have come with our modern society. Some things just don't change, no matter how much we advocate for it or grumble about it.

I realize that the main target of my post is Facebook. This all can be said for Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Blogger/Wordpress, and whatever websites are gaining popularity these days. However, I, personally, have not wrestled with this same attachment towards any of those other pages. Well, perhaps, my love for Pinterest has gone a bit far. But, I believe I can honestly say it has brought forth more productivity, inspiration, and encouragement for me than what I've received from Facebook. I somehow find inspiration to do the things I see and learn on Pinterest, which I can rarely say has ever happened in my relationship with Facebook.

Nevertheless, I do believe that there is something incredibly unique about Facebook that does makes it stand strongly above all the rest. It is very uniting. It is all those website rolled into one, although lacking the versatility of personal design and individuality. But, it won't be leaving anytime soon. Its impact on humanity is, I think, more far-reaching and more crucial than we could ever imagine.

I won't say that I will be leaving Facebook anytime soon. Presently, I am living on the Pros of Facebook, although I am doing some serious self-reflection and evaluation about my time and the tendencies of my own personality that are difficult to change.

Contrary to all my former beliefs, I did meet my husband through Facebook. Oh, the irony.
And, it was right at the time when I was weighing whether or not I should give it up entirely. I think God has ways of humbling us that just leave you smiling.

Strong opinions and personal reflections are welcomed on this post. :)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

mid-week musings for all

 I always feel a slight sigh of relief by the time August has rolled around. The peak of summer has come and gone and, although we still have three more very hot months left in Phoenix, it is still nice to know that one is halfway through the worst of it all. It can only get better from here!

It is mid-week and I am putting forth my very best effort to remain focused on some creative goals this week, mainly in my music. I have been putting together lyrics and chord progressions for a tune I came up with on a rainy late night in July. In my usual approach to songwriting, I get inspired for a moment and, then, I depart from my snippet-of-a-song and find something else to pour the other half of my focus into. I had felt such discouragement from this terrible habit of mine earlier this week; it is a tiresome way of doing things year after year with hardly any projects to show for it. So, this evening, I managed to sit myself down and complete a little bit more on my song. I am trying to constantly bring to my mind that little steps, over the course of a long season, do produce greater fruit; it is the diligence and the patience that truly bring a completed creative result. My hope is to devote an hour or longer several nights a week to my songwriting. I have so many pieces of lyrics and progressions and melodies that I need to begin stitching them all together! On a related note, I am dubbing the song my 'Marissa-Nadler-inspired-piece' [not really. my song is actually titled Silken Lover] because I am trying to capture that dream-folk style that Marissa does so well.

Because June and July were such dry months for me in my writing endeavors, I thought to myself that, perhaps, I should be reading more to find a greater inspiration to write. So, since July, I have slowly made my way through The Poet's Guide to Life: The Wisdom of Rilke (snippets from Rainer Maria Rilke's writings and letters) and Anne of Green Gables. I had forgotten how amusing and perfect the tales of Anne Shirley truly are! It has been so rewarding to read again. Don't classics seem to get better and better the second, third, or fourth time around reading them? What books are currently on your to-read list?

Yes, this blog is partially just a rambling to hold myself accountable to my own creative goals. I. Can. Do. It!!
What creative goals are you shooting for this week/month?

This evening, I was thinking over this quotation below by Timothy Keller from his book, The Meaning of Marriage. This weekend will mark exactly 6 months as a newlywed and, every day, I am amazed and overwhelmed at how it very much will take a lifetime for me to settle into and comprehend all the mysteries entailed in covenant love. Such a relationship unearths so much within you.

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.” 

What quote(s) have captured your interest this week?

I depart with a snapshot of the city in the valley that I have, since birth, called my home. I have never much appreciated it and, honestly, there isn't too much to love about a city in the desert that reaches triple-digit temperatures for six months out of a year. Nevertheless, as my love and I are preparing to leave here soon, I cannot help but feel a bit melancholy to be saying goodbye. 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

prayer minstrel: Robin Mark

 It is about time I got back on track with my blog series on prayer minstrels.
My mental energy seems to have been hijacked throughout July and I felt unable to truly focus. I am praying August is different for me.

One of the "prayer minstrels" I want to highlight this week is a worship singer/songwriter from Belfast, Ireland. His name is Robin Mark and we have all, at one point or another, been acquainted with him through his popular worship song, Days of Elijah. I have had the blessed opportunity to follow Robin Mark in the past 10 years, as well as meet him and his band members several times in Shiprock, NM and in my home-state, Arizona. It even got to the point where, last I saw him, he recognized me, my sister, and my dad! Thanks to my uncle who has corresponded with him, I have been able to "know" Robin Mark to an extent. He is truly a humble Irish-man, through and through. He is so down-to-earth, you wouldn't even think for a minute that he is such a well-known worship leader whose songs have been played in many churches across America and the UK.

I know Robin Mark has come out with various album over the years, but the two that really stand out are both of his Revival in Belfast albums. My family and I played his first Revival in Belfast so often that there are a billion scratch marks all over the disc. Whether in our living room, running errands, or taking a vacation, his music has been the soundtrack to our lives. You could say that his songs have traveled everywhere with us, in and out of a great many seasons. Yet, that is such a testament to the depth behind his songs, which are gentle, Celtic-styled ballads. They aren't ordinary, nor are they polished. I admire the fact that these two albums were live recordings because it grants the listener such a true feel for what his "concerts" are like - one big worship gathering! I truly believe these albums showcase the purity of heart that he and his members have regarding the worship of the Lord. It is sacred and unadulterated, as well as close to the Father's heart through Scripture-inspired songs.

 There is something that stirs in me when my ears catch the drifting notes of the bagpipe intro on the opening track, Garments of Praise. The whole intro is a tremendous powerful build up to the point when Robin begins to strum his guitar and sings "Put on the garments of praise for the spirit of heaviness. Let the oil of gladness flow down from your throne. Your joy is my strength alone, my strength alone." I am aware that I write (and talk) about crying a lot, but this is one of those songs that unearth a great cry in me! It pulls me straight to Jesus and I sing with them, "Make these broken, weary bones rise to dance again....wet this dry and thirsty land with a river..Lord, our eyes are fixed on You and we are waiting for Your garments of praise as we praise Your name..." This wonderful song ends in a fun Irish jig with a delightful violin solo as the choir starts up a hallelujah chorus. From tears to laughter, his songs will lead you to praise the Lord with all your heart.

In the moments when I have observed Robin leading worship, I have become very aware of what makes a worship leader a true worship leader. It is the unexplainable connection the worship leader draws with the people, ordinary people just like himself, when he begins to sing their soul-cries for them and walks them to the throne room of grace. That is what makes a true worship leader In truth, this is what my blog series is about. We call them worship leaders, but I think a more proper term is, as I have referred to it in my blog series name, prayer minstrels.

 A minstrel is usual defined as a musician, or a poet, who travels from place to place and plays among all the people. To the poor and to the rich, the minstrel finds his place among all classes of people. His, or her, song lyrics and melodies find a place with humanity's truest dreams.

 A minstrel plays the "heart-history" of the people, the undeniable, unifying themes, values, and desires that have been in the heart of man since we departed from the Garden of Eden, away from the presence of the Lord.

 It is the "God-shaped-hole", as it has been termed before, in each of us that gives rise to this insatiable longing for Something more, Something bigger and far more vast than all that we are and know.
I add the word "prayer" to describe these minstrels because, in essence, that is connected to what this kind of worship does. Prayer is the language of heaven, the way we communicate to the Lord and how He communicates to us through the Holy Spirit within us. Prayer is an intimate thing. It lays bear our souls before God and it opens wide the mind and heart of Christ to us. Thus, I use the term prayer minstrel to describe those among us called to communicate the heart and mind of Christ to us through the gift of song, as well as draw us into the haven of the intimate and restored relationship we have with our Lord. That is the place where we learn to worship God - the purpose for which we were each uniquely designed. The place where we are fully known by our Lord and He, fully known, to us. It is a sacred place. And, we, with the Spirit indwelling us, all have this daily, abiding reality of being worship temples. However, as is the case, many of us bear many burdens and carry the weight of the sad and harsh realities of this earthly life. We are all sojourners, just passing through, but there are a lot of things that get stuck on our feet and hands along this journey. Sometimes, all these harsh realities hinder us from freely worshiping our Lord as we wish. These difficulties even tempt us to think that our identity is something else other than who our God has told us we are in Christ. So, we oftentimes look like a half-way house instead of a brightly burning and polished worship temple. It's not who we truly are, but we feel so encompassed by the woes and insanity of this life that the last thing we think or feel capable of doing is burning brightly for Jesus. Therefore, this is the calling of a prayer go to God's people and be the one to impart the Gospel-truths to free and heal souls worn down by the burdens of this earthly-life, as well as to revive them in their relationship with the Father.

Another song by Robin that really meets us at our level is the song, Revival. He opens it with a verse from Isaiah to prepare the way of the Lord, then the rest of the songs enfolds he sings a revival of the Spirit of God occurring amongst ordinary people. The lyrics are beneath the song posted below. I have also included some of his slower, more simple songs such as Jesus, All for Jesus and When It's All Been Said and Done. Although his songs may be simplistic, the messages of them speak for us in a powerful way. These songs summarize the longing for our lives to count for something, to live up to our fullest potential, to be everything that were crafted to be. There have been many instances in my life when I have been led to a point of wanting to relinquish everything and all that I am to find that true freedom that comes in belonging to my Creator and walking out this life in the way He fashioned for me and to reflect those things that are eternal. I love that Robin's music draws me to that point, time and time again. His music is such a humbling avenue for the Christian. I believe that this has a lot to do with Robin and his band and the authentic worship-environment they bring with them wherever they travel.

I am truly thankful for the opportunities to get to know Robin and his band members because it really impacted my life at a young age (I was around 15 the first time I met them). Those are memories I still recall and treasure of, not merely just meeting the band members, but partaking in that refreshing and inspiring time of worship before our glorious Lord. 

On a last note, I should mention that Robin Mark did write a book a few years back titled, Warrior Poets of the 21st Century. It is available to purchase through It was really neat to hear him talk in person about that book shortly after it was released. His Irish humor and genuine nature really comes across in his book as he shares personal experiences, but also Scriptural studies on the significance of our identity as worshipers of the Lord.

Garments of Praise

I hear the voice of one calling, prepare ye the way of the Lord.
And make His paths straight in the wilderness
And let your light shine in the darkness
And let your rain fall in the desert.

As sure as gold is precious and the honey sweet,
So you love this city and you love these streets.
Every child out playing by their own front door
Every baby laying on the bedroom floor.

Every dreamer dreaming in her dead-end job
Every driver driving through the rush hour mob
I feel it in my spirit, feel it in my bones
You're going to send revival, bring them all back home

I can hear that thunder in the distance
Like a train on the edge of town
I can feel the brooding of Your Spirit
"Lay your burdens down, Lay your burdens down".

From the Preacher preaching when the well is dry
To the lost soul reaching for a higher high
From the young man working through his hopes and fears
To the widow walking through the veil of tears

Every man and woman, every old and young
Every fathers daughter, every mothers son.
I feel it in my spirit, feel it in my bones
You're going to send revival, bring them all back home

When It's All Been Said & Done

Jesus, All for Jesus

The Wonder of the Cross

 Perfume - this piece was actually written and sung by one of the ladies in his band and it truly captures the heart of Mary as she poured forth the finest ointment upon Jesus' feet.